FC Barcelona's Brazilian defender Sylvinho believes his side will have to stand up to the physical challenge posed by Chelsea FC if the Spanish side are to prevail in west London and reach the UEFA Champions League final.
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FC Barcelona defender Sylvinho believes his side will have to stand up to the physical challenge posed by Chelsea FC if they are to reach the UEFA Champions League final.
Frustrated in last week's goalless draw at the Camp Nou, the Spanish Liga leaders travel to west London hoping to unpick a Chelsea defence that smothered their best efforts in the first leg – and Sylvinho has no doubts where the tie will be won and lost. "Chelsea are one of Europe's best teams and very strong at home, particularly physically," said the 35-year-old, who expects a similar pattern of play to the first match. "They won't change their approach too much but with the fans behind them I expect them to come out a little more. I don't think they will be overly attacking; they will play to their strengths. I can assure you that everyone who's coming here is really up for the occasion and hopefully we'll get a good result. I personally wasn't too disappointed by the result in the Camp Nou. We have to be very strong mentally and hopefully we'll put in a good performance."
Suspension to Carles Puyol and Rafael Márquez's knee injury means the 35-year-old is in contention for his sixth UEFA Champions League appearance of the season on the left of the Barça defence, although he accepts coach Josep Guardiola has other options. "The manager hasn't said anything about the team yet – even if he had and I told you, he'd kill me," he joked. "Obviously Puyol and Márquez are big losses for us but whoever plays we'll be ready. There's one or two of us who can come in but we're all focused and together as a unit – and we think we can do well here."
If Chelsea needed any reminder of the potency of Barça's attack, Saturday's 6-2 league win at Real Madrid CF provided ample evidence. An unused substitute, Sylvinho watched admiringly from the bench and believes the result – and, perhaps more relevantly, the manner in which it was achieved – provides an invaluable confidence boost. "That result was essential for us," he explained. "Given the result and the way we performed against Madrid it's going to be an extra motivation for us – not that you need any extra motivation for a Champions League semi-final."
The Brazilian has started only seven league games this season but has fond memories of Stamford Bridge having recorded a win and a draw there during his two seasons with Arsenal FC between 1999 and 2001, scoring a memorable goal in the latter fixture, a 2-2 draw in September 2000. "The fans in England are fantastic, they get behind the side for 90 minutes and more," he said. "It's probably the stadiums that make the atmosphere so special, they're a lot tighter and the crowd are right on top of the pitch. The atmosphere is beautiful. But it's nothing new to our players; we have experienced and understand that type of atmosphere and can expect to do well."